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This article was originally published in issue #37
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Albert Lee is guitar royalty and his jaw dropping guitar playing is always superb to hear and witness. Such great playing deserves the best guitar and this review Ernie Ball Music Man Albert Lee signature guitar is one of many Ernie Ball/Music Man Artist signature instruments you can choose from, safe in the knowledge that what you buy is the same as what the artist uses. Our review guitar is very close to what Albert favours most of the time, featuring three Seymour Duncan single coils and a hard tail bridge, though you can now get variants with Duncan P90s or DiMarzio humbuckers, with or without a whammy bar. You also have a choice of body woods and rosewood and maple fingerboards.
Our review guitar came in a triburst colour which has never been my favourite finish but most love it because it is a safe and traditional look complimented in this case by the tortoiseshell pick guard. Ernie Ball do some truly stunning finishes and the trick is to find a guitar you love the look of and you can't put down. There is plenty of choice of look and spec on offer with all EB guitars, so you can take your pick.
EB aims to put out the Albert Lee signature with a weight of around 6lbs if it is the version made from southern ash. The mahogany version will weigh a little more but either Albert Lee or Ernie Ball, or both, know that light guitars sound and resonate better than heavy ones. Albert comes from playing light Telecasters and Ernie Ball carries on that philosophy by trying to bring in Albert's signature guitar at the perfect weight. Our review guitar definitely felt beautifully light, and when strummed acoustically, was loud and resonant. When a guitar rings like this acoustically then you know it'll sound great through an amp. The Seymour Duncan custom wound single coils really have a sweet response and are voiced to give some of the best clean or slightly driven sounds you can get. It's not just pickups, it's the resonance of the one piece southern ash body, the five screw neck join and the maple neck and board all working together to create such a lovely sounding guitar.
To keep the guitar dead silent, Ernie Ball uses a silent circuit run by a 9v battery at the back of the body. Again, this is excellent thought and attention to detail by Music Man because they know that the noise generated by passive single coil pick ups can be a complete pain in the studio and on stage. Just to make double sure the guitar is noiseless, the pick guard is lined with aluminium and the body cavity is painted in a graphite compound. Locking Schaller M6 tuners and a compensated nut add to the quality and attention to detail
This guitar is a pleasure to play and apart from my personal opinion on the tri burst colour and the continuing debate about the shape of the body, this really is as good as a guitar can get.
The Ernie Ball Music Man Albert Lee guitar has been with us a very long time now. Long enough for us to get used to its fairly radical styling. It's always going to be a love it or hate it shape but there is never any doubting the quality of any Music Man guitar, from any period of manufacture. They are consistently excellent throughout the years and continue to be so, to the point where you could buy one unseen and untried without the concern of it being not being as good as your friend's one. I own a couple and have played many, and each one is hand finished and tweaked to perfection when it leaves the factory and will be as good if not better as anything you can buy out there.
There is, of course, always that 'do I want a guitar carrying someone else's name?' question mark that hangs over any signature guitar (though it never seems to bother Les Paul owners!) as well as the angular looks of this instrument but if neither of those questions trouble you then this is a guitar you just have to try.